The 7 Stages of Post Relationship Grief

by Sarah Gray

Music is an essential part of post-breakup coping and can be both an extension of how you feel and a gentle nudge to the next step.  Here is a guide to seamlessly gliding through the seven stages of post-relationship grief.

Step 1 – Shock or Disbelief

You’re surprised, right?  I mean, you’re pretty awesome.  Your mom says so all the time, so what gives?  Why is this person breaking up with you?  Probably a whole slew of reasons, not least of which being you can’t seem to take the hint that you are, in fact, broken up and that is likely going to be the permanent state of your relationship going forward.  There are probably a handful of other significant factors such as your general inability to commit, your constant whining, your stifling possessiveness, etc.  Maybe they just never liked you to begin with, but that doesn’t matter at all!  Because you really liked them!  And you know that because you are listening to these songs:

“Video Games” – Lana Del Rey

This whole album has a great throwback feel to it, and along with it, some pretty throwback gender roles.  For girls, the song’s repeated insistence on submission to the kind of bozo who sits around playing video games and honks instead of knocking on your door when they pick you up will be all too familiar.  This song has a somber musicality that underlies lyrics like, “It’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you, Everything I do.”  If you really want to be self-indulgent, practically the entire album is about dating the wrong person, which you’ve obviously been doing, but you won’t realize for another 6 steps.

See Also:

“I Belong To You” – Muse

“A Thousand Years” – Christina Perri

Step 2 – Denial

This is often more an extension of step one than a step of its own.  Because you are in total denial that the person who just left you is not the right person.  I’m going to let you in on the secret your friends and family already know…they are not the right person.  They are, in fact, the wrong person.  This is when you have the great urge to call your ex, like, all the time.  Do not do it.  Under no circumstances should you be calling your ex.  Put the phone down.  You’re welcome.  Also important to note, you should not be getting a hair cut during this period of time.  Do not even look sidelong at a salon.  You will regret it.  More than you will eventually regret your relationship.

“Nothing Compares 2 U” – Sinead O’Connor

This is an obvious one, I admit.  Obvious for a reason, I would argue.  This is the classic of classic breakup songs.  The Great Gatsby of breakup songs.  You know why everyone, bar none, says The Great Gatsby is an amazing book?  Because it is.  Do you know why no breakup music list lacks this song?  Because it is The Breakup Song.  Capital T, capital B, capital S.

See Also:

“Bathwater” – No Doubt

“All At Once” – The Fray

“Skinny Love” – Bon Iver

Step 3 – Anger

If you are going to really linger in any of these stages, I strongly recommend lingering in this one.  This is where you really start to propel yourself to the end of this process.  Things you might say to your ex if they call during this stage include: “if we had a kid together, I would drown it in the bathtub” and “I hope that whore gives you the clap.”  Remember all those times he didn’t call?  Remember catching him flirting with your friend at the bar?  Yeah, you do.  Fuck them.

“Fuck You” – Cee-lo Green

This should be the anthem of your break up.  Listen to this as loud as you can tolerate and as many times as it takes for you to just not be angry anymore.  This may take a while. Maybe throw things around your room a little. Definitely, definitely sing along with an enthusiasm you would ordinarily reserve for winning the lottery.  And, let me reiterate, you should still, under no circumstances, be getting your hair cut yet.

See Also:

“You Oughta Know” – Alanis Morissette

“Someone Must Get Hurt” – She Wants Revenge

Step 4 – Bargaining

This is the step where you try to get them to take you back.  Actually, fuck this step.  I refuse to indulge you to this extent.  Here are a few more good angry songs to tide you over to the next step.

“Sail” – Awolnation

See Also:

“Take from Me” – Bad Meets Evil

“Limp” – Fiona Apple

Step 5 – Guilt

Here is where you start to appreciate this may be a little bit your fault.  Like, it didn’t seem like it should have been a huge issue backing out of meeting their parents or deciding it was maybe best to hold off on moving in together.  This is what getting what you deserve looks like.  Remember that time you made out with your previous ex while you were with your last ex?  Yeah, you did this to yourself.  And if you didn’t, you should spend this step feeling bad that you fell for such a wank.

“100 Years” – Dr. Dog

Sometimes a really good one gets away, which will be helpful because they can forever serve as a barometer with which to measure your future partners.  If this person was, in fact, really great and attractive and funny and smart and interesting, which I’ve heard happens once every Hailey’s comet in real life and not just on TV, this is the song you should play in the background while you are getting the rope all secure from your closet ceiling.

See Also:

“You Know I’m No Good” – Amy Winehouse

“Little Lion Man” – Mumford & Sons

Step 6 – Depression

At the risk of being self-indulgent, this is unfortunately an often unavoidable step.  Sleeping with someone else is a good way to mitigate the amount of time you stay in this step, which is an option that should definitely be considered given that this is often the step people spend the most time in (against my better advice, which is to hang on in anger and breeze through depression.)  Once you are a true breakup artist, you will have been sleeping with someone else since around step one and a half, which really helps with this step as you could be half into a new relationship by now, so you would only have time to be depressed in between work and going on dates with this new, better person.  But on Tuesday nights after eating take-out alone, you can enhance your general loneliness with the following:

“Someone I Used To Know” – Gotye

So, you know how that person you loved so much and spent nearly every day with and told all your secrets to was the person you were closest to in the world?  Well, they are a stranger now.  If you are going to insist on being sad, this is what you should be sad about.  I mean, you only lost your best friend and confidant, right?

See Also:

“Someone Like You” – Adele

“No Need To Argue” – The Cranberries

Step 7 – Acceptance and Hope

Finally.  You are a full person again.  So here are some songs to listen to while you get yourself gussied up to go out and break some hearts of your own.  Remember when you were so in love?  Yeah, me neither.

Smile” – Lily Allen

See Also:

“Dog Days Are Over” – Florence and the Machine

“Caress Me Down” – Sublime

There you have it.  If you still want to cut your hair, which I bet you no longer do, go right ahead.

Here’s all those songs in a handy Spotify Playlist:

6 thoughts on “The 7 Stages of Post Relationship Grief

  1. Oh, it’s so funny and it’s so sad. Good idea.

    In all Dylan songs (the greatest breakup angst artist of all-time):

    1. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands, Blonde on Blonde
    2. Oh Sister, Desire
    3. Idiot Wind, Blood on the Tracks/I Don’t Believe You, Another Side
    4. Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, The Freewheelin’
    5. I Threw It All Away, Nashville Skyline
    6. You’re a Big Girl Now All the Way, Blood on the Tracks
    7. One of Us Must Know, Blonde on Blonde

  2. Ooh. I want to play. What about all Billy Joel?

    Step 1 – Shock or Disbelief: “All for Leyna” – Glass Houses
    Step 2 – Denial: “Uptown Girl” – Innocent Man
    Step 3 – Anger: “Big Shot” – 52nd Street
    Step 4 – Bargaining: “If I Only Had The Words To Tell You” – Piano Man
    Step 5 – Guilt: “The Stranger” – The Stranger
    Step 6 – Depression: “Captain Jack” – Piano Man
    Step 7 – Acceptance and Hope: “Only The Good Die Young” – The Stranger

    Or, just play “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” 7 times in a row.

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